Years ago, a friend of ours was sharing about his recent relational breakup. He said something was just “off,” and he wanted to end it before getting too far down the relational road. To illustrate the issue, he said that often when she was talking, he would lose interest in the conversation . . . then his mind would drift . . . and he would find himself thinking about sports. (This has provided years of residual laughter for us.)
Drifting thoughts can make even the most interesting conversation a struggle. The culprit is dual—and dueling—waves of thought. All those currents swarm about inside us, stealing away our concentration.
It is rare that we have a quiet moment inside ourselves. Even with all the noise of the information age and the nonstop media and technology overload, sometimes I find it noisier on the inside than it is on the outside. O, to capture a quiet wisp of breathing space in today’s too-full world! I hate it when those I love find my thoughts trailing and drifting off to who-knows-where. I don’t want them to feel devalued due to my lack of focus and deafening internal noise.
Finding quiet to breathe in and offer to others seems to be my lesson this week. God has been prompting me to consider how my overloaded brain steals away the treasure that is found in the quiet, hidden away in others.
Earlier this week, I was reading in Mark’s Gospel account, preparing for my Bible study. Here the Lord was speaking to a scribe who wanted to know what the greatest commandment was. Jesus pointed him back to the Shema (Deut. 6), established at the time of Moses, still standing since ages past. It is the call to love God fully and completely, then to love others as much as we value ourselves.
Jesus was sure to repeat the Shema in full, which is curious to me. The scribe, being a devout Jew, knew this pronouncement, having repeated it twice daily all his days. So why did Jesus speak it out for him?
I think some things bear repeating because our ears can grow dull with the familiar. The subcurrents of dueling thoughts drown out familiar things, making the sacred seem shabby.
I too have read this passage and the Shema many times. But this time, I caught one word, one phrase, that has lasted me all week:
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord.”
Hear. Even now it catches in my throat, tugging my emotions. Do I hear? Do I stop to listen? First and foremost, God is calling His people to listen, truly listen. This command to hear has grabbed my heart, shaking it to attention.
And what am I to hear, Lord? I’ve asked this over and over, wondering what I’ve missed in my lazy listening. I see that the Shema calls God’s people to hear that God is one (united, no other) and that He is Lord (ruling all).
Do I really hear this? That God is my God—He has come for me. That God alone is almighty—I have nothing to fear. That God is Lord—He rules all things.
Has this sunk in deep or has it gotten carried away on the subcurrents within?
These precious truths become muffled in my hearing, losing their beauty in the cacophony. Soon all jumbles together, sounding like the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons. I hear the sounds, but what does it mean? I want to block out superfluous noise to keep God’s voice in tune.
And I’d like to get better at giving my undivided attention to the sacred and holy things, to the lasting things, to people, to God.
Here I’ll break the quiet as bread, to commune there with the Lord . . . and then offer this quiet to someone else as an offering to my glorious God who continues to speak until I can hear.